Professor Tess Lea

University Fellow

Tess Lea is an anthropologist who specializes in the anthropology of policy. Her fundamental interest is with issues of (dys)function: how it occurs and to what, whom and how it is ascribed. Looking at houses, infrastructure (plumbing and roads), schools, home indebtedness and Indigenous enterprise from the respective points of view of Canberra policy formulators, Indigenous organisations, and Indigenous kin, her work asks why the path to realising seemingly shared ambitions is so densely obstacled.

Darwin born and bred, Lea has a strong history of applied work, having inaugurated the School for Social and Policy Research at Charles Darwin University (now the Northern Institute); and working as a policy and Ministerial advisor at senior levels of government. She has been awarded a number of Australian Research Council grants; fellowships including Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship; Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship; Visiting Fellowship Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge; and was the inaugural University Medallist for Women’s Studies at the ANU.

Research Interests

  • Settler colonialism
  • Urban and spatial studies
  • Human-other species relations
  • Critical infrastructure studies, architecture and design
  • Science and technology studies (STS)
  • Organisational ethnography and the anthropology of policy

Link to Research Publications

Tess Lea


T: +61 2 9351 6777

The University of Sydney
Sydney NSW